Thursday, September 27, 2007

Sick Bank


When my husband felt the ill effects on Sunday night of whatever is going around right now, we didn't have to worry if he had enough time in his sick bank on Monday to call in.
He hadn't called in sick in 23 years.
Now that I'm going with round two of the bug he brought home to us, I don't have to worry about it either.
As soon as my assignments that are due are turned in this morning, I can crawl back into bed and not worry about some corporate flacky counting up my sick days.
That's what I love about the freelance life today.

(Don't worry, I don't think you can catch it through the Internet!)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Aspiring Writers!

Gotta love these ads that are read between the lines:

"Looking for Aspiring Writer for Pet Orientated Publication (Comp: To be discussed) Looking for aspiring writer for pet orientated publication. "


Looking for Aspiring Writer - We are a start up publication. We really didn't have the money to start a business, but we heard we could get "aspiring writers" for nothing - or next to it - because they want to build a clip file.

Comp: To be discussed - We'll discuss you getting free copies of our publication so you can start to build a clip file.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Today, I interview Terry Shaw, author of the new book, "The Way Life Should Be." Terry's a former newspaper man and he talks about the newspaper industry, making the leap into fiction and how the right writing contests can help your writing career.

Tell us about yourself.
I’m a 44-year-old ex-newspaperman who’s hoping to make it as a novelist. Although we’ve lived in several states, my wife and I now make our home in Knoxville, Tennessee. We like the outdoors and usually spend a lot of time hiking with our dogs and kayaking, though during the past six months most of my free time has been spent editing and marketing my novel.

Tell us about your debut book, "The Way Life Should be."
It’s the story of newspaper editor John Quinn, who returns to coastal Maine with his wife to raise their son. When his best friend – a married politician with children – is killed at a gay pickup spot, Quinn is the only one who wants to know what really happened.
Although it’s primarily a suspense/mystery novel, the book also explores several current issues, including the effect development and soaring real estate prices have on coastal communities, along with the difficulties of publishing a small daily newspaper a time when that industry is undergoing radical change.

You hitchhiked through the west in your younger years. They say writers should always have adventures. What do you think this taught you about life and writing?
I met all types of people and learned that you can find interesting stories anywhere. I also learned you don’t need to have a lot of money – which can be very helpful for an aspiring writer. At one point, a friend gave me $25 in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania and after hitchhiking to Gunnison, Colorado, I walked into a bar to meet another friend and still had $16 left. At the time, I didn’t have a job (except for a short stint working at a convenience store), a car, or any responsibility or obligations. It was one of the most enjoyable years in my life.

You were laid off from your job as a publisher due to downsizing in the newspaper industry. What do you think the future is for people who actually like to sit in the morning with a cup of coffee and hold their newspaper while they read it?
More of them will read their newspapers on their computer screens with a cup of coffee, or at work, or at night. I’m optimistic newspapers can survive, though one trend needs to change. During my lifetime, family-owned newspapers have been forced to sell off to corporations, with many of those corporations borrowing money for the acquisitions and having unrealistic expectations for profit margins. Now that the business is changing and media companies can no longer make the obscene profit levels they’ve been accustomed to, many of them are selling their papers.
I hope we see more independent newspapers that aren’t worried about squeezing every nickel they can for out-of-town shareholders. Also, as more newspaper business migrates to an on-line format, production costs will shrink. Of course, this will be a radical change and we’ll see how it shakes out.
I’m still a fan of newspapers and subscribe to my local daily and always pick up the alternative weeklies. In fact, my novel’s protagonist is a guy who’s struggling to keep his family newspaper afloat during these tough times.

Since you began writing as a journalist, how long has fiction been inside of you?
Since about third grade. I can remember writing a short piece of fiction as an assignment for my third grade teacher, Mrs. Piemme, and loving it. I also wrote a lot of bad fiction in college. I got really serious about the whole thing the last few years, because I figured at this stage of my life, I needed to get moving or it was never going to happen.

Explain the process of successfully making the transition from non-fiction to fiction.
I knew how to craft news stories, features and columns, but fiction – especially a novel – was completely different. When it comes to journalism, once the reporting is done, I can sit down and bang out the work pretty quickly. With fiction, I need to have my head clear and no distractions.
Also, non-fiction is very social. You talk with people. You often work in a crowded newsroom. With fiction, for long chunks of time, it’s just you and your story.
I guess the biggest challenge for me was plotting a story that held up for 70,000 words, something I finally figured out after trying for a few years.

How did you come up with the idea for your book?
When I was an editor in Maine, we used to regularly meet with groups of readers. During one of those meetings, a woman wanted to know why we published a story about a school board member who had gone to jail for molesting children.
This shocked me. I was even more surprised when she followed up with, “When we move to Maine, we want to believe the sign that you read when you cross the state border from New Hampshire that says ‘Welcome to Maine, the Way Life Should Be.”
That’s where I got the title, anyway, and maybe the overall theme of the book.

How did you find your agent/publisher?
I found my publisher by winning the First Chapters Contest, which was co-sponsored by Touchstone/Simon & Schuster and Borders. It was open to first-time novelists and first prize was a publishing contract. More than 2,600 people entered and I was fortunate enough to be named the Grand Prize Winner. They also decided to publish the runner-up, a really talented young writer from Chicago named Geoffrey Edwards. His book is “Fire Bell in the Night,” a historical thriller set in pre-Civil War Charleston, South Carolina.
Once I had a publishing contract, it was pretty easy to find an agent. A handful of people actually contacted me and I decided to go with Frank Weimann of the Literary Group.

Your book has a shade of mimicking reality right now -with Sen. Craig having pled guilty in connection with soliciting sex in a men's restroom. Do you think that controversy will help sell your book's story line in any way?
Well, I certainly wouldn’t mind if it helped sell my book. Oddly enough, the whole Sen. Craig situation is a lot more common than most people realize. In Maine we had several prominent local citizens arrested at a gay pickup spot in a public park, in broad daylight, in the middle of the afternoon. In Suburban Buffalo, where I also worked, we had a very well-known park where several prominent local officials were charged with public lewdness. Of course, my friends in Maine assume the arrests there influenced my book and my friends in Western New York assume that park influenced the book. They’re both right.

Where can we find your book and what's next for you?
You can find it at Borders Books & Music and at You can also find it at other retailers, but Borders is giving the book pretty prominent display, especially for a first novel. The president of Borders was one of the final judges in the First Chapters Contest, so I guess he liked my book, along with Geoffrey Edwards’s book, which you can also find there.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Plowing Through the Process

My mom always advised me of the old cliche, "Life is not a destination, it's a journey."
This is because I was always saying, "I can't wait for X." Before I started school, I wished to be in school; then I couldn't wait for jr. high and then I couldn't wait to get a job; then I wished I could be out of school, get married, buy our first house, etc.
Well, you ge the picture. My mom was always trying to tell me to enjoy whatever part of life I was in at the time. "One day, you'll wake up and wonder who that old lady is in the mirror and your life will be behind you; your can't waits will be over," she told me at the end of hers.
But old habits are hard to break. After my husband and I set ourselves up for a life change this summer, we got what we wished for - nothing in our lives at this point is the same as it was this time last year - and while I tried to 'enjoy the journey,' it was hard when things didn't immediately go as we envisioned.
Try as I might to enjoy where I was at the time, I still found myself saying, "I can't wait until...."
The longer I write as a profession, the more I find myself doing this with my stories as well. Gathering information and research, conducting interviews and just getting through the process so I can get to the next.
Last week, I got an assignment from a new-to-me-editor I wanted desperately to impress. I liked the topic and got so caught up in the research - actually finding myself enjoying the process so much that I was almost late with my deadline.
I realized after I filed the story that I hadn't enjoyed a topic like that in a very long time - that because I wasn't enjoying the journey, some of my stories lately were lacking passion.
Like books, I watch movies not only to be entertained, but to challenge myself to learn something from them. This past week I watched two that touched on this very issue. Harry Connick Jr. in "Hope Floats" tells Sandra Bullock's character that creating architecture is an art to him, that by trying to turn it into a profession (presumably for a large firm), he twisted it until he lost his passion - or something like that.
In the movie "Serendipity," John Cusak's friend tells him that the Greeks didn't write obituaries, they simply asked one question about the deceased: "Did he have passion?"
I don't know if that's true, but it struck a chord with me, maybe more than all of those years of trying to see life as a journey rather than the destination.
Passion is what we should be bringing to all of our writing, because when that is lacking, we somehow fail the people we are trying to inform (or in the case of fiction, those we are trying to entertain).
So, my goal - not just for this week - but for all of my writing, will be to enjoy the journey a bit more and find topics that bring passion back to my writing life.
As for my non-writing life, it is stabilizing, but with an addition to the house and 2 buildings to construct on our property, I will be reminded to try to find my passion in whatever step we're in and enjoy that journey.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Digging for Finds

I've had a hard week deadline-wise, so I'm going to do myself a favor today and take the day off. I cleaned the house last night and want to make a special dinner for my husband when he comes home this weekend, celebrating his new job and moving forward in our new lives here.
That requires a trip to town and to the grocery.
For me, the celebration will start this morning when I visit a couple of the antique shops in our tourist town. My love for browsing antique shops started as a child when my parents and I would begin most Sunday mornings in small towns surrounding our larger metropolitan area. They would get up early and find the auction notices in the newspaper and off we would go. Sometimes they would hit pay dirt, sometimes not, but I developed the love my mother had for everything old. When I was younger, I enjoyed it more, but as a teen, I quit going with my parents on those outings, reserving Sundays for sleeping in or spending time with my boyfriend (who is now my husband). I regret missing those last few years with my parents now that they're gone, of course. But with the memories of those Sundays, Mamma left most of her precious finds to me when she died this year. I anticipate when our house is completed and those antiques are released from storage, I will have the same awe for them as I did seeing them for the first time.
I never get tired of going into our antique stores here, either. One of them bought the old printing equipment and assets at the old newspaper when it closed. The owner holds the printer's blocks for me and I go in and buy a few each month. When my office is done, I'll hang the printer's drawer I picked up at an auction from the University of Missouri School of Journalism and place my blocks in it. The other store gets a new assortment of antique Christmas ornaments every once in awhile. I already have a large collection of these - again, from Mom and so I buy these carefully - with the antiques I already own, I don't have room for a lot more.
In the process, of course, I'll be sniffing for a story - and looking for new friends.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Dream Factor

When I started freelancing full-time from home, I knew I had found my dream job. I could set my own hours, work if I felt like it and if I didn't, I could do something else. I always thought it so stupid that I was made to time in to a timeclock from 7-4 when maybe on that day I would have worked better from 12-9 because I had a headache at 7 that subsided by noon. My freelance life usually allows me to make those discretionary changes in my schedule.
Some of us have what it takes to be our own bosses. In the corporate world, they used to call this "needs little supervision" on those moronic evaluation forms.
Some people do, though, need the stability of knowing they will receive a weekly or bi-weekly check. They need to wake up everyday and know their job is waiting for them without having to locate more work and market themselves. They know they can plan on 2 weeks vacation a year and they get to choose their health coverage from a menu of options given to them by a company. I call this the 9-5 worker.
That's ok too, we're all different. My husband is one of those people and in this instance, direct opposites do work together. His need for a stable environment has earned him a solid work history. When we were writing his resume in preparation for finding a job in our new town, at first I thought it looked a little short - having only two jobs to list his entire adult life. However, when we started listing his accomplishments, it revealed the outstanding work ethic he has used his whole working life. I mean, how many people could say they haven't missed a day of work due to illness or injury in 21 years?
This week, that stable work ethic paid off for him. He found an excellent job that went beyond our wildest dreams here in this small town with few opportunities.
The thing I love about my freelance life today is how it balances so well I balance with my 9-5 worker.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


I have no idea what kind of bonus "scheme" this company is cooking up, but when the job involves re-writing someone else's words, it can't be good.

Part-Time Entertainment News Writer (Comp: Hourly rate, but a generous bonus scheme is offered)
We're looking for a part time writer for our entertainment news website. The site is Basic pay is an hourly rate, but we offer a generous bonus scheme, based on the number of visits an article gets. You'll need to do 1 hour approx. in the morning and one in the evening. The job involves rewriting existing news stories. It's not all that challenging from a writing point of view, but speed and accuracy are important. The key is to choose the right stories. We do well with stories that feature big names and/or are sensational. Please choose a recent story you think would get lots of visitors and then rewrite it as a 50 word news story. Then send it to use along with few lines about who you are, where you're based etc. Experience is an advantage, but not necessary. This a a freelance, work at home position.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Bad Girls Club

Today, I'm interviewing Judy Gregerson, author of the new book, "Bad Girls Club." Judy tells us about writing YA and talks about how her own experiences led to her writing about the difficult teen years:

Tell us about yourself.
I am a NY'er by birth but I landed in Seattle about 27 years ago and made it my home. I have two college-aged daughters and a very funny husband as well as a cat, a gerbil, and a dog. My background is in copy editing and copy writing, advertising, publishing, and sales/marketing. I published my first book SAVE ME! when I was 27 and then I didn't write for a long time. About ten years ago I came back to it and this time it "stuck"! I like to travel although my family tells me I'm a terrible traveler (what do they know?) and I love to go to Lake Chelan in the summer. I'm finishing up a degree in human development/social and health services in my spare time and hope to work with teens in the near future.

Tell us about your new book, "Bad Girls Club."
Bad Girls Club is the story of a teen who tries to save her mentally ill mother, her abused little sister, and her ineffective father, but ends up deserting her own life to hold the family together. It's really a roller coaster inside the mind of a girl whose life is spiraling out of control and who eventually discovers that although she's always been told that she's a bad girl, that she has value and worth.

You say on your website, "My books are all about abuse and trauma, but they're also about finding hope when there is none." Why did you choose abuse and trauma as a platform?
I was a severely traumatized child. I had two alcoholic parents and our family literally disintegrated over a period of a few years. My mother landed in a psychiatric hospital-- never to return. My brother had a very bad accident and had a serious brain injury and that was the thing that finally snapped my family apart. Having grown up in that chaos, I learned to be invisible but I also learned that I had no value. It took me many years to learn that I did. So, when I write, I always write about a teen who has fallen through the cracks because of abuse or trauma and how they get out of that and find their value and self-worth.

How hard is it to write YA, especially when it is on a difficult subject?
I don't think I'd want to write book after book about difficult subjects. It wears on you after a while because you have to get into the main character's head and live her emotions, or at least I do, in order to get them on paper. When I wrote this book, I went into trance states and became the character and it was very hard to come out of them. Sometimes it took hours, although I got better and better at shaking off the emotions. I wouldn't want to do that for years on end. There's only so much trauma I can live or relive in a lifetime.

Is it difficult to find an agent/publisher for sensitive topics for teens?
You know, I think that varies from writer to writer. I found it difficult. I had some interest in the book early on and a few editors worked on revisions with me --which isn't so unusual. Some houses that I subbed to already had books planned that were very similar to mine, and that was disappointing. Some agents told me they didn't handle books on this subject. Other's didn't get it. So, it wasn't easy.

Tell us about your writing process (do you outline, use notecards, charts?)
Usually I start with a title or a character. Or even an emotion. From there, I begin to build a story in a very organic way. I do make notes as I go, to keep track of the sequence of chapters, but I don't outline unless it's very scant and only for the purpose of remembering where I am as I go. I do character sketches early on and spend some time writing down everything I know about the character. But at some point, it all goes into my head and I work from there. The problem with outlines for me is that characters take me off in directions I hadn't planned, so I try not to plan too hard, other than a basic plot outline.

What is the most effective method of research for you?
I read books and I scour the web. I've become a dandy little researcher and I love to watch and research trends. Lately, I've been watching the trends in child abuse around the world and reading reports from major organizations. I don't know where I got this love of statistics, but I sure do love them. Generally, I find a thread that I like and follow it. I augment my research with books. For Bad Girls Club, I read many books, some written by mentally ill people, some by psychiatrists, some by therapists. I also talked to mental health professionals.

I've often seen the advice from editors that when writing YA, you must write to them, not talk down to them. How do accomplish this?
I do that by mentally becoming a teenager as I write. I remember those years very well, probably better than I'd like, and I especially remember the emotions, the fears, and the insecurities. I can remember sitting around and wondering who I was, where I belonged, who I belonged to, and where I was going. I also have two daughters who were both teenagers when I was writing this book, so I watched and listened to them.

If you had one piece of advice for a new author wanting to break into YA, what would it be?
Do not follow the market. Write what you want and what has meaning to you. If it doesn't have meaning to you, it won't have meaning to anyone else. Also, do it your way. If you only write once a week, do that. You don't have to do it by anyone else's methods.

What's next for you and where can people find your book?
I'm trying to sell a humorous YA about a teen who ends up in a trailer park after her father loses his job and sells their house. This is very disruptive to her popularity and she becomes rather excessive in dealing with being the brunt of jokes and ends up at the county mental health clinic with a therapist she's convinced is out to get her. I'm also working on another book about a teen living with her extended family after her mother drops her off at the grocery store and never returns.

People can find my book in the usual places. Amazon is always good. You can order it at any book store if they don't have it in stock.

They can also check out my website at I have a monthly book giveaway for people who sign up for my newsletter on my website. I pick one name a month and announce it on the first. And my blog on abuse has a link there, if you're interested.

Right now, I'm getting ready for book events. I've been doing radio and you can listen to one of my radio interviews on my website. I'm working on school visits and letting many mental health organizations know that I'm available to speak to their groups. In fact, I'll speak to anyone who will listen to me. There are printable flyers on my website for anyone who is interested in my programs. There's also a bio, a sample chapter, a link to Amazon if someone wants to buy the book, and lots more.

Monday, September 17, 2007

A Bust at the Chili Cook-off

Our weekend didn't go exactly as planned. In my mind, I thought we would go to the Arkansas State Hillbilly Chili Cook-off, maybe get some story ideas, eat lots of chili and come home and take antacids all night.
Turns out, I took antacids, but it wasn't due to all the chili I ate.
You see, Dakota, our weiner-beagle, had other ideas for her Saturday morning. I keep the two little ones on leashes to save them from the bears, coyotes, big cats (don't know if they're technically mountain lions or cougars or if that's the same thing), snakes and if they make it to the shore of the lake - steel jawed traps.
However, the little dogs just want to be dogs too and so we usually feel sorry for them and allow them to roam free in the yard while we're outside. Usually this is not a problem. On Saturday, it was.
Dakota was gone for 2 hours, at which point, I was getting pretty frantic. I refused to leave the house while she was in the woods by herself. What if she got caught in brush or more horribly -one of those traps and started yelping for us?
At 12:30, she finally wandered back to the house, tail waggling as if to say, "I'm home and I'm thirsty, why are you so upset?"
I totally missed the deadline for getting my quarterly taxes postmarked and by the time we got to the chili cook off, they were out of chili - a full 2 hours before the advertised ending time to the festival.
I started out the day thinking I would find a good story or two on a festival and maybe a profile on a crafter. But the story Gods had something else in mind. I'm not sure what story I can pull out of Saturday, but there must be a story in there somewhere - other than how well Malox works on a stomach wracked with stress and full of fried foods we ate at the diner on the way home.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Take Advantage of Fall Festivals

Now that we're in the heart of the Ozarks, where my mother loved to come, especially in the fall because of all of the festivals, I can't wait to get to some of them.
It's not just because I like the funnel cakes and kettle corn either.
This weekend, we're attending the Arkansas Hillbilly Chili Cook-off. Apparently, each state has a chili cook-off and this is the one for Arkansas that will determine who goes onto the national chili cook-off.
A friend of mine from New York laughed when I told her. "And to think I already made plans this weekend."
I even told my husband, "It sounds a little scary when you think about it," referring to the term 'hillbilly' conjures up images of more than beef going into those pots.
But as I said, I'm not going just for the food. I'll be armed with my notepad and camera because I guarantee you, I'll walk away from the cook-off with more than a stomach ache from too much fair food, I'll have at least one good story idea.
Where are you going this weekend?
Remember, every outing is a possible story.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Dog is God Spelled Backward

My dogs are always with me. When we lived in the city, there were 3 dog beds in my office and they all laid patiently while I did my work.
Now that we have my office in our bedroom while we decide how to make an addition onto the cabin, they still crowd in here with me while I work.
Molly and Dakota, the two small dogs, lay up on the bed. Emma and Sadie, the two larger dogs (we acquired Sadie the night before our move) lay on soft blankets on the floor behind me.
They're my co-workers, providing me with comic relief when I look back and see Sadie has fallen asleep with her "bo-bo" in her mouth. They provide me comfort when I need a warm, furry body to hug; an outlet for my thoughts when they need a walk and distraction when I need to focus on something other than the computer screen.
Today, my dogs are what I love about the freelance life.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Wanted: Someone who Enjoys Watching the Grass Grow

This wouldn't be for me, but hey, at least they're honest:

Contract Reporter/Writer for Golf Trade Publication (Comp: Negotiable) (Orlando) : Florida-based golf trade publication seeks a contract reporter/writer to cover golf course maintenance news and issues. We are looking for someone who not only loves golf, but also has an interest in what goes on behind the scenes in terms of course set up and maintenance. That's right, this job requires someone who literally gets excited by watching the grass grow. The right candidate will possess a degree in journalism and a passion for digging deeper to find the real story beneath the surface. Well qualified candidates only should submit a letter and resume. Candidates from golf-centric locations, especially the Southeast or West Coast, are preferred.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Candy for the Disabled

Today, I interview Candy Harrington, an editor of a magazine that leads the disabled to accessible travel, as well as the author of the new book, "101 Accessible Vacations." Candy tells us how she developed this specialized niche, how it is to work with her husband and even a tip for a successful marriage!
Remember, readers, if you would like to ask questions of our authors, please post it in the comment section. I will then ask the authors to answer you if they can.

Tell us about yourself.
I’m the editor of Emerging Horizons (a magazine about accessible travel) and I also write books, columns, website content and freelance articles on the subject. I’ve been covering accessible travel exclusively for the past 14 years and prior to that I wrote for mainstream travel outlets. I’ve always made my living from writing, but at this point in my life I’m able to focus on topics and subjects that are important to me. I consider quality of life an extremely important issue -- people and experiences are what matter the most to me these days. When I’m not traveling, I like to spend time with my husband at our mountain cabin in the Sierras. In fact, I wrote most of my latest book up there last winter. It was a very Steven King-ish experience -- sitting in front of the fireplace with my laptop, in this very remote area. It was a very productive time.

Tell us about your new book, "101 Accessible Vacations."
It’s my third book about accessible travel. Basically it’s a vacation idea book for wheelchair-users and slow walkers. The book evolved from a question that has been posed to me countless times over the years, “Where can I go on vacation?” To be honest, I’ve often been at a loss for a reply to that query, especially if I don’t know anything about the person asking the question.Unlike traditional travel books that are organized geographically, 101 Accessible Vacations is organized by area of interest. It’s divided up into 12 sections that include everything from “Road Trips” and “Family Friendly Fun” to “A Little Culture”, “Crusin’” and “Historic Haunts”. That way readers can focus on the sections that most match their travel styles and areas of interests. In short it answers that question, “Where can I go on vacation?”And like in Emerging Horizons, and the rest of my work, detailed access information is included in this book. To be clear, I don’t just say something is or isn’t accessible, but instead might say that a particular attraction has a level entry, roll-in shower or wide level pathways. I don’t use tables or charts or pictograms all access information is included as a narrative part of the text in the chapter. And it’s included in every chapter.

How did you develop the niche of writing about accessible vacation spots.
I had been covering mainstream travel for many years and I was bored. I was well paid, but tired of writing of what I considered fluff. So I spent a lot of time volunteering at different non-profits; trying to find something more meaningful to do. A friend suggested writing about accessible travel, and at that time it was a pretty far out idea, as it wasn’t addressed at all. I thought it would be interesting and quite a challenge (I love challenges) so I set off to learn about the laws and realities of accessible travel. In the beginning I thought I could cover all aspects of accessible travel, but after further research I realized that scope was too broad. So I decided to address travel for people with mobility disabilities -- from slow walkers to wheelchair-users. I didn’t even know anybody with a disability at that time, but as a writer I knew how to research a topic. It took me a few years before I felt comfortable writing about it, as it’s all very complicated. Suffice it to say I was just at the right place at the right time and a lot of doors opened up; and in the end that’s how I knew I was on the right track. And since I was “first in market” I developed the reputation of being the expert; and that reputation has really advanced my career. Looking back, I wish I could say that I knew accessible travel would be a hot topic in 15 years when the Baby Boomers started to retire, but in reality the timing was just dumb luck. Still I’m very happy with what I do now and I can never imagine retiring -- slowing down, yes, but not totally retiring.

Your magazine, "Emerging Horizons," which presents a critique of accessible vacation spots, accepts no advertising. How do you finance it?
Emerging Horizons is entirely subscriber supported. The reason we don’t accept any advertising is that we want to present an unbiased view of accessible travel options, and we don’t feel we can do that if we accept advertising. Sometimes it’s a very fine line between editorial and advertising and I just don’t want to walk that line. We consider ourselves answerable to our readers and we try to present information that will help them make informed choices as far as travel goes. Sure, we’d probably make more money with advertising, but then we’d be a different publication, and that’s not where I want to go. We’re now in our 10th year of publication and I’m very happy with not only the slant and the content, but also with the fact that we are making a profit.

Your husband is a photographer. Does he take many of your travel photos? How is it working together?
Yes, he takes most of my travel photos, and he does an excellent job. He knows exactly what I need -- he can just tell by how I act and from years of working together. And even more important, he takes great access photos, which isn’t easy. In access photos, you need to show the access features, but you also want to give folks a flavor for the destination. And most of the time he has very little time to set up shots and he just has to take pot-luck with lighting and weather. He even climbed over a fence to get the cover shot for my new book. It was taken in Curacao, and he had done that shot before but in the interim they threw up a fence on us. I think he made a nice save.We work together very well, but we are just one of those couples who can. We don’t like to be apart and we always travel together. That’s one of our big rules. We both have a great sense of humor and we strongly believe in the 10 second fight. It’s not like we never disagree, but when we do, we hash it out, make up and get on with life, in 10 seconds or less. I guess you could call it speed fighting. To be honest, I think that’s the secret of a happy marriage.

How do you find accessible vacation spots?
Any way I can! I rely a lot on reader recommendations but some times I just have to pound the pavement myself for accessible choices. I surf the internet a lot and of course talk to PR folks about their clients. I try to do as much pre-trip research as possible, but even with that we still find some glitches. I’ve had people outright lie to me about access at their property, just to get me there. I guess they think once I get there I will just fall in love with it and the access won’t matter. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does it’s very frustrating. After my inns and B&Bs book was released I had a lot of innkeepers contact me telling me that their property is accessible, which is great because there is going to be a second edition of the book. In the end, I just keep my eyes and ears open all the time. I’ve even gotten good leads while at the hairdresser.

What is the writing process like for you? When is your best time to write?
I’m kind of a strange writer, as I don’t have this set-in-stone process that many writers have. I just sit down and do it. Sure, for major pieces I have outlines, and of course I take copious notes while doing my editorial research; but a lot of times the only structure I have is a few words scribbled together in a loose outline, under headings that only I would understand. As long as I have it in my head, it’s as good as down on paper to me. In fact, I pretty much consider a piece almost finished when it’s hashed out in my head. Getting it down on paper at that point is merely a mechanical exercise. And then of course there’s the fact-checking, which is essential in my niche. That sometimes takes up a chunk of time, as I’m a stickler for accuracy.My most productive time is in the early morning, although ironically I’m not a morning person at all. It’s just that as the day progresses I’m more easily distracted. For my books I do have to be a little more disciplined, to make sure I set aside enough work time; but when push comes to shove I can pretty much write anywhere. I wrote a good chunk of my second book aboard a cruise ship, and I’ve written more than a few editorials at airports. I’m just a very flexible writer.

Is there a writing quirk no one knows about you?
I do my best work in the shower. Really. If I ever have a problem sorting out the logistics of writing -- from crafting a better lead to organizing a book outline, I just take a shower and it all becomes clear. I also get some of my best ideas in the shower. I came up with the original idea for 101 Accessible Vacations in the shower. And once it’s in my head in the shower, it’s as good as done.Admittedly, my husband knows I’m a shower thinker, but then again he’s used to me racing out of the shower, sitting down at my computer and writing non-stop for an hour or so. It’s kind of hard to miss if you live with me. The towel is a dead giveaway.

Some of your business is built around speaking. How much of your business do you devote to it and how do you find gigs, or do they find you?
For the most part I don’t actively seek out major gigs; they find me because of my reputation and the subject I cover. I have been known to seek out smaller ones though, just as a way to keep me in touch with my readers. I travel a lot and if I know I’m going to have a little extra time in a particular city, then I’ll contact some local disability groups and ask if they’d like me to do an accessible travel presentation. It’s kind of fun and every now and again it leads to something bigger. Right now I’d estimate that speaking only takes up about 15% of my time. And that’s about right for me. I like a little diversity in life.

What's next for you?
Well I just started doing a radio show, appropriately called Barrier Free Travels. It’s actually a segment of the Independence Journal, which is broadcast on WFNP 88.7 FM in the Hudson Valley of NY. I just taped my first two segments today.For a long time I toyed with doing a podcast, but for one reason or another that never got off the ground. Then out of the blue a colleague called and asked me if I’d like to do a regular accessible travel segment on his show. It’s the perfect solution for me, because he deals with all the recording and editing and manages the technology end of things, while I concentrate on content. And in the end I have some nice segments to post on my blog. Still it’s a new experience and a bit different from being interviewed by somebody. I’m learning a lot and although I didn’t have any disasters with my first segments, I’m sure they will improve as I gain more experience. I enjoy branching out creatively. It keeps my mind active. I really don’t like to stagnate.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Upsetting the Writing Cart

Ok, readers, I'm going to ask you to do a little work today, keep reading for your assignment.
I've figured out another reason I haven't been as productive since our move. I previously thought it was actually what we came here for - the peace and quiet - that made me feel too relaxed.
But after a very productive week last week - one of the most productive since coming here - I know now that I am a "ducks in a row writer."
My husband was here for the week and he spent most of the time during the day out applying and interviewing for jobs.
I got tons done.
It was the first time in months that things seemed well, normal. I know now that I am a routine person. I need everything and everyone in its place before I can be at my best. This year has been so full of the out-of-the-ordinary, that I forgot what it felt like to have the ordinary - and when I did, I was able to complete several projects.
This is why writing in a coffee shop has never worked well for me.
So, here's your assignment: Are you a "ducks in a row writer?" Do you have to be in a certain place with certain things in alignment to write or can you take your laptop and write in a busy, crowded airport terminal?
I've made it as easy as possible to leave your comments. You don't even have to leave your name or sign in! And I know you're out there because I see the hit numbers everyday!

Friday, September 07, 2007

Learning the Biz

I have some take away experiences from the corporate world, including keeping up with continuing education.
Taking classes keeps me focused and fresh.
I've taken query classes and I'm taking a business class now and have learned a lot in just 3 weeks. I'm also taking a photography class. The photographer is excellent, his critiques are beneficial, but I think photography classes for me is something that needs to be interactive. I belonged to a critique group when I first started out which helped me develop my eye for lighting and composition - as well as the different software programs. Since it was on a college campus, it was very interactive. I liked the teacher and I liked sharing with the fellow students. We are of all levels and it was a very good experience. Online classes is my only option right now as I live too far away from any college campus with advanced writing courses. But I've learned a few things from the online classes I've taken. When choosing an online class:

  • Read the course description carefully. Make sure you have the time and technological wits to do everything the class requires.
  • If you have preconceived thoughts as to how the class will go, ask the instructor. For example, if interaction with other students is important, ask the teacher if you will have it.
  • Find out if it will be done via email or in an online classroom setting. This is important as dozens of emails from classmembers going back and forth sometimes gets annoying.
  • Weigh where you're at in your career, does making this particular area stronger go along with your business plan?

After you've done all this, pay your money and get ready to study!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Working Vacations

My husband is here this week, on what we think will be his last vacation at his job of 23 years. Given we've already taken about 5 weeks so far this year to get the house read to sell, move and go to Germany, my vacation bank is officially empty. But the hubby saved a lot of his time through the years, leaving him with nearly 4 months built up. He's cashing in the rest as he's been applying and interviewing for jobs here, which has given me time to get caught up on some projects.
So far, I've had a "working vacation," getting down to business when he's been on appointments, and enjoying the vacation atmosphere when he's been here. Just because my business plan calls for a certain amount of time off each year doesn't meet I can't hit "delete" and change it! There's no HR snob telling me I have to work until January 1 to build up more.
That's what I love about the freelance life today.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Medical Writer Wanted

5 Month Freelance Science/Medical Writer (Comp: Amount not stated) (Seattle) :;_ylt=AixnGtNUUiVyB6MlXR7Glq_6Q6IX?search_url=%2Fjob-search-k-freelance-t-twodays%3Fsort%5Btype%5D%3DdateDisease research is Fred Hutchinson's focus, but like many medium-sized and large employers, the center depends on a range of occupations - scientific and nonscientific - to keep the center running and the research moving forward. With more than 2,500 employees, Fred Hutchinson offers many opportunities for professional development, increased responsibility and career advancement. The following sections provide more information about employment at Fred Hutchinson. About Us Program Publication Background: The Breast Health Global Initiative (BHGI) develops evidence-based, economically feasible, and culturally appropriate consensus guidelines for international breast health and cancer control for low- and middle-income countries (LMCs) to improve breast health outcomes. The BHGI holds a biennial "Global Summit on International Breast Health" ("Global Summit") as the basis for development of Guidelines for International Breast Health and Cancer Control ("Guidelines") which define best practices for early detection, diagnosis, treatment and health care systems relative to breast cancer in LMCs. Two iterations of the BHGI Guidelines have been published (2003, 2006). The third Global Summit, scheduled October 1 - 4, 2007 in Budapest, Hungary, will bring together 100 international cancer experts from around the world to address and define key issues of Guidelines implementation in LMCs. The Global Summit presentations and panel discussions will be the basis for development of the third iteration of the Guidelines. Actual writing of the Guidelines will follow in the five to six months after the summit. Key points from the summit's presentations and panel discussions will be prepared for the writer / editor to incorporate into the manuscripts, which will be drafted by the Work Outline. Major Duties Work Outline The BHGI seeks a free-lance writer/editor to work on the development and submittal for publication of the 2008 Guidelines beginning late October or early November 2007 until submission to the journal, CANCER, March 10, 2007. The Guidelines (publication 2008) will include the following: • Five Consensus Statement Articles, 10-20 pages each: Overview, Early Detection, Diagnosis, Treatment and Health Care Systems o Each article will have first and second author. The first and second author will develop the draft article. The writer will work with the first and second author to edit the draft article, incorporating input of their specific international panel (16-18 panelists per panel). The writer will work closely with the BHGI Chair and Director in MS preparation. • Four or more Individual Articles, FOCUS GROUPS, 5-10 pages each: research, economic modeling, radiation therapy and pathology • Individual Articles, GLOBAL SUMMIT PRESENTATIONS, 5-10 pages each: # to be determined • Individual articles, ADVOCACY, 5-10 pages each: # to be determined Qualifications • The position requires a true scientific/medical writer who has lay knowledge of oncology and cancer. • Freelance writer / editor position requires "fluency" in medical oncology. • Guidelines publication is an international, collaborative project • Est. work will involve approximately 10-60+ hours per month (more hours some weeks, less hours others, some weeks there will be nothing to do. November will be slow). • Est. hourly average approximately $50 per hour. • The work of writing/editing will be done on a secure web portal via Microsoft product called Sharepoint, eliminating innumerable email from the contributing authors. • College degree, preferably in journalism, English or communication, or in science with coursework in journalism or significant work-related writing experience • Ability to translate complex scientific ideas that convey the significance and potential impact of research to the public, and the ability to define complex scientific concepts and words • A combination of four or more years experience in proposal writing, journalism • ,Evidence of success in writing for the general public about science or technology • Superior command of written English including technical matters of composition such as grammar, syntax, punctuation etc. • Enthusiasm for and understanding of biomedical/cancer research • Able to express ideas that effectively communicate case, vision, or need to multiple audiences. Audiences may range from the general public to professional scientific staff • Excellent investigative skills and the ability to navigate through a complex organization • Ability to work on multiple projects simultaneously and to meet deadlines • Able to work smoothly with others, elicit cooperation and contribute to a group effort toward achieving department goals Pay,Benefits, & Work Schedule Hourly 5 months, temporary position No benefits Other Information Job Number NH-21195 How To Apply This position is a five-month temporary assignment INTERESTED PARTIES SHOULD SEND FORMAL COVER LETTER, RESUME AND THREE (3) CANCER RELATED WRITING SAMPLES TO: Equal Employment Opportunity The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and The Seattle Cancer Care Alliance are equal opportunity employers, committed to workforce diversity.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Blindsided by a Diaper

Today, I spoke with Beth Levine, who has contributed an essay to the new book, "Blindsided by a Diaper." Beth tells us why she thinks anthologies are especially good markets for humor essays and how she gets all those articles into women's magazines

Tell us about yourself.
I have been writing ever since I learned to write; my mother says I was storyteller even before I could talk. I would just babble nonsense that sounded like complete sentences, with period, emphases and nuances. Let's just say I've always had a lot to say! My first career was as a book publicist in NYC until the day I decided I wanted to write my own stuff, not publicize other people's. I quit cold turkey to go freelance 20 years ago, and have never looked back. I am married to a fellow writer -- he is a lyricist and musical theater writer. We like to say we have rich inner lives because we certainly never have rich outer ones.I have written for dozens of magazines, newspaper and websites. My latest stuff is:Woman's Day, "Not My Mother's Hysterectomy," (August 1)Ladies' Home Journal, "Six Surprising Stress Cures" (September)Woman's Day, "Paging Dr. Scooby!" (October)Woman's Day, "Destress Your Family" (October)You can see more of what I do on my websites,
Tell us about Blindsided by a Diaper
(Three Rivers Press, June 2007)It's a collection of essays about how having a baby changes your relationship with your partner/spouse. There is some wonderful stuff in it from Moon Zappa, Susan Cheever, Greg Behrendt, Hope Edelman, and others. My husband, Bill Squier, also has an essay in it, about our interfaith marriage.
How did you learn about this book?
The editor, Dana Hilmer, lives in Guilford, Conn., and we have a mutual friend in writer Sandi Kahn Shelton ( -- go there now! She is hilarious!) Dana asked Sandi to contribute, and Sandi recommended me, and then I recommended Bill. I guess it is all in who you know!
Why did you decide to contribute to an anthology?
I love writing essays, especially humor essays. But they are getting harder and harder to place in magazines. Magazines are really under the gun, they are losing ads at a scary rate, and when the ads go, the first thing to get cut are the essays because they are harder to sell against. I keep reading these essay collections (I can't stay awake at night long enough to commit to a novel) and thinking, Hey! My crap is as good as this crap! Why don't they ask me?!?!?! So when Dana asked me, I was jumped at the chance. The bad part was I agreed to write one before she landed the contract, so I wasn't sure of getting paid. The good part was that since I signed up so early, I got my pick of topics. I get paid a flat fee, and don't get any royalties. However, I put a link on my website for it through the Amazon, and if anyone buys it through my link (hint, hint), I think I get 50 cents!
You write for many women's magazines. How did you get into the big leagues?
By being too stupid to realize that it was a big deal. When I first starting out, the only clips I had were a couple of reports for a free NYC neighborhood paper. I sent them to Self, and the editor actually responded. She gave me a huge assignment -- which I completely screwed up because I didn't know what I was doing. But it was a learning process. I just kept at it. Coming from book publishing, I had a few contacts that I worked like hell, and I don't know, things just started happening. I wrote a humor essay about why does everyone have to touch you when you are pregnant which Woman's Day picked out of the slush pile, and that led to a very long relationship, God bless them. However, keep in mind that even though you might look at my credits and think, "Wow!!" I still make an annual income of bupkiss. It is very hard to actually make a decent living doing this.
If you were speaking to a new writer, what advice would you give them?
Learn your craft.Read constantly.Figure out what you want to write about and then figure out what market wants to hear it.When you figure out the market, study it before submitting. Who is the demographic? What is the style of writing?Write constantly.Rewrites: Expect them. Don't whine, just do them.Remember that editors are people just like you: They want to do their job with the least amount of hassle and get out the door in time to see their families. Anything you can do to make that happen will only work in your favor.If an editor responds negatively to a pitch or proposal but says, "I like your work, please submit more," ask her/him out to lunch. Say, "I'd love to hear what your editorial needs are."
How do you come up with story ideas?
If something is in the NY Times, it's already too late. The trick is to get onto something before it hits the news. I subscribe to various press release services that send me the latest announcements. I also try to look around and feel what the latest cultural zeitgeist is. If something is worrying/annoying/intriguing me, it probably is doing the same to other people. Once, when the 500th mother bored me silly on how "gifted" her fetus was, I wrote an essay on why is every child gifted these days. Where did all the average kids go? It sold in minutes.
What is your dream writing job?
It would be my dream and my nightmare: A weekly humor column. Okay, maybe a monthly. It would be a ball, and I would be permanently terrified that I'd never get the next idea!